I’m sorry, but assessing that George Bailey, revered hero of the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life is “kind of a jerk under pressure” takes a heap of guts. So thank goodness for Richard Roeper, whose book 10 Sure Signs A Movie Character is Doomed & Other Surprising Movie Lists details the five ways in which Mr. Bailey isn’t such a wonderful guy (roughing up his frail uncle for an innocent mistake – C’mon! Shame on George for trusting Uncle Billy with the cash in the first place!), along with pages of other culturally important tidbits.
Roeper, a Chicago Sun-Times columnist, is best known outside of Chicago as half of the movie-reviewing duo of Ebert & Roeper. Like his co-host and Sun-Times colleague Roger Ebert, Roeper has a genuine love for movies. Why else would he spent time compiling a list of actresses who have played prostitutes, actors who have played drunks and performers who did nude scenes, despite the fact that no sane person would want to see them naked?
True, 10 Sure Signs… is pretty much just a compilation of lists, but Roeper’s witty, pointed insights make them not only fun, but a must for any movie lover. Sure, the book does include a list of actresses who have done kissing scenes with other actresses, but most chapters rise above that level. For instance, the section “Buried Treasures,” a list of fine but little-seen movies, provides some great rental ideas (and a self-congratulatory moment when I realized that I had seen and enjoyed two of them). There’s also two particularly revealing lists, “Most Critics Loved It, I Didn’t!” – in which Roeper cops to panning Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring and other critical darlings – and “Panned By Many, Enjoyed By Me,” – in which Roeper proves, shockingly, that my father isn’t the only person on earth who liked 3,000 Miles to Graceland. His list of his 40 least favorite movies of all times is equally intriguing, although I noticed with horror that the list included two movies I like, Death Becomes Her and Forget Paris (I have my reasons!).
There are also lists of popular movie clichés, such as “10 Sure Signs A Movie Character Is Doomed” (“The popular veteran cop who has travel brochures on his desk and is a week away from retirement – he’s never going to see that condo in Arizona, is he?”) and "The 10 Highly Stupid Habits of Movie People” (“When someone hangs up the phone in the movies, the person on the other end of the line always says ‘Hello? Hello?’ at least three times and looks at the phone and says ‘Hello?’ at least once more before reaching the obvious conclusion that the other person has hung up.”) The book is a hoot from beginning to end, and should delight film fans – particularly those who always wondered why no one arrested George Bailey for driving drunk and hitting a cherished town tree.